Coquelicot Gilland

Coquelicot's work has evolved through her more than 20 years of experience of being a minister with the Association & Integration of the Whole Person (AIWP). To every session, Coquelicot brings her intuition and vast knowledge base. Then she gets out of the way to let something else arise; she makes room for a larger knowledge, and invites grace to enter. Coquelicot has a capacity for deep listening, listening beyond the limits of her personality and academic learning. By dropping and melting into something much larger than herself, she becomes simultaneously a student and a teacher, a facilitator and a catalyst. From there, she supports people to free themselves from the internal obstacles that block their innate ability to access this source directly.

Awareness: For Health and Creative Living

by Ellen Wolfe

We all experience moments when we feel vitally alive. We see a beautiful landscape just outside our home as if for the first time; colors suddenly become vivid. During a pressured work day, we find a way to solve a problem with a surprising burst of creativity. We accomplish a physical task with unexpected ease. Or we find ourselves in a conversation in which we feel deeply involved; suddenly, we feel as if we have mastered the art of communicating with another human being.

Why do these moments stand out? Why do many experiences lack this sense of vividness and ease? How can we bring more creativity to daily living?

Risa Kaparo, Ph.D. suggests that the answer lies in the capacity to be more fully present in the immediacy of what we are doing, when we are doing it. This capacity, she maintains, can be consciously developed, deliberately exercised and brought to greater richness. "To thrive, and grow more alive and creative — to do anything well — require that we learn to fully engage ourselves in the activities of daily living," she says.

During the past two decades, Dr. Kaparo has made significant contributions to understanding how human awareness functions. As a psychotherapist, she maintains a clinical practice, as well as providing training and supervision for health care professionals. In addition, she has developed simple ways in which each person can learn to participate more consciously in any activity. This adds greatly to the enjoyment of life, she says. But it also is fundamental to health and strength of the immune system, release of stress, and the recovery from illness and injury.

In this exclusive interview with The American Patriot, Dr. Kaparo talks about her work, and the methods she has developed to help people bring greater awareness to their living.

AP: Why do you believe that awareness is the primary factor in living creatively?
Dr. Kaparo: Each human being is a finely tuned system that provides continuous feedback about how he or she is functioning at any given moment. For instance, you may sense the chair pressing against your body as you sit and read a magazine article. You can feel how what you read affects you.
To participate more consciously in any activity, we need to refine how we listen to the feedback. For example, to sit more comfortably while you read, you must first be aware of where you are holding tension, and then relax those places to find new support. To read with comprehension, you need to be aware of moments when you lose attention. Only then can you interact with the reading material in a way that will produce new understanding.

Being aware of what we are doing "here and now" provides a ground for more effectively engaging in any activity. I call this a self-referencing awareness. This awareness allows us to locate the places where a small change in how we pay attention can create a major shift in our capacity to function in any activity.
Let's go back to reading. Everyone has had the experience of reading and suddenly recognizing that they don't know what they have read in the last paragraph or page. You may have become fatigued, distracted or skipped over material that wasn't readily understood. Once you locate where you lost attention, you find what you need to do to re-engage. Perhaps you need to relax the rigid focus tiring your eyes or reflect on the author's underlying assumptions.

AP: Are you saying that tuning into our immediate experience is at the heart of learning to perform better?
Dr. Kaparo: Our capacity to function creatively in any situation is determined by the quality of awareness. Let's take an example. You are speaking in front of a group, an activity often accompanied by anxiousness and self-consciousness. How can you be fully alive to what you are saying, in touch with yourself, and
connected to everyone in the room? If you want to learn to speak more effectively, you can begin by listening to what you are saying in the immediacy of speaking it, rather than simply reporting information. Notice whether you have enough breath to support your speaking, or whether you sometimes feel that you are not getting enough air. Does what you are saying affect how you feel in your body? If you extend your kinesthetic sensing, you will sense how the ground supports your entire structure.
When you are present "here and now" you communicate better with people. And others respond differently to you. I encourage you to try this out, the next time you are in a conversation with someone. You may be surprised at the difference this can make.

AP: You talk about "exercising" awareness. What do you mean by that?
Dr. Kaparo: Normally, we know ourselves through images, measurements and comparisons. For instance, when you speak in front of group, you may have an image of how you look and sound to others. When you compare this image to how you would like to appear, you begin to adjust your behavior to match your desired appearance. This process separates the surface of behavior from the depth of experiencing.
In contrast, if your behavior is grounded at the depths of experiencing this self-sensing will continuously re-form who you are in the immedia' of your actions. The surface and the depths are congruent. Rather than just surviving the experience of speaking front of a group, for example, you may find yourself renewed by your engagement in that challenge.

In my work, I have identified different qualities of attention, which become an arena for improving our capacity to be more fully present. For example, our relationship to time shapes every experience. We may be anticipating the future in a way that causes us to become tense in an effort to achieve a goal. Or we may be following an event or reflecting on experience in a way that takes us out of the present where change needs to occur.

For example, you may find yourself driving your car and becoming increasingly tense in the rush to reach a destination. If you become more fully aware of yourself while driving, the unnecessary effort you exert and tension built up in your body will begin to relax. You will exert only as much effort as is actually needed to drive the car, rather than going through the stress of trying to rush while sitting still.
For a golfer, a shift in his or her inner awareness can eliminate any hesitation that occurs between the mind holding the target and the body's execution of the swing. The way you are experiencing time determines performance.

There are many other qualities of awareness, including the potential to hold in attention many aspects of a situation simultaneously. Think of how a quarterback in a football game must be aware of all the players moving on the field at once, as well as the precise timing of the play. Or, consider that we can listen to the whole of a piece of music, while at the same time being aware of the parts different musical instruments express. The more differentiated our awareness, the greater the capacity we have to participate creatively — as a conductor does in directing the entire orchestra or a manager does in leading a team.

AP: You describe your work as learning to extend presence by developing different forms of intelligence. What do you mean by this?
Dr. Kaparo: I refer to intelligence as a thorough "listening" in the process of experiencing so that who we are becoming is shaped by all the feedback available to us. We function unintelligently when we are deaf to that feedback.

While we usually think of intelligence as a mental capacity, its range includes the five senses, each of which represents a particular kind of "intelligence." The sense of touch and movement, for instance, combine to form kinesthetic intelligence. I refer to them as different forms of intelligence because they all involve perception, evaluation and response—even though much of that may go on below conscious awareness.
In my work with clients, for example, I've found that people with weight problems or eating disorders can make significant changes in their behavior simply by being more fully aware of the sense of taste. External references such as special diets, counting calories and weighing ourselves can be helpful, but are often insufficient. By the time someone steps on the scale, the behavior that produced the problem is far in the past. What he or she needs is an internal referencing system that can immediately provide the necessary feedback to change their actions.

Whether or not you have a weight problem, being more aware when you are eating has many benefits, including more enjoyment of food. The next time you have a meal, experiment with quietly tasting each bite of food and allowing the flavor to linger across the palette until it dissolves. You can experiment with closing your eyes to fully savor the food. If you bring attention to these activities rather than eating mechanically, you will find yourself naturally adjusting what you eat and how much. The "intelligence" of the whole person is enlivened through the sense of taste. Awareness — without a compensational act of will — brings about "self-regulation." That's one of the distinguishing features of this process.

AP: You work with people who suffer from injuries or illness, or those who want to reduce stress. How does developing awareness help them?
Dr. Kaparo: I see many clients who suffer chronic pain from injuries related to car accidents or sports. Surgery may prove only partially effective, if at all. People who suffer chronic pain from injuries generally have become locked into patterns of holding themselves that actually sustain the problem. Those patterns affect virtually every activity, whether walking, sitting at a desk, watching television or driving a car. Learning to sense these tensions allows the body to reorganize in a way that releases patterns that stress old injuries or leave us more susceptible to new ones.

As a person becomes more responsive to their inner feedback in the course of living — even to the movement of breathing — overall health is greatly enhanced. The circulation of the lymph system is improved, causing the immune system and other physiological processes to function better. We also absorb nutrients more efficiently. New possibilities arise in the recovery from illness and in disease prevention. Small changes at the core of awareness effect significant changes in overall functioning and the capacity to heal.

Now this sounds remarkably simple, and it is. But it requires sustained attention. It can be helpful to take time out to do what I call awareness experiments. (See accompanying article for series.) But what is most essential is that we develop this self-sensing awareness within the context of day-to-day activities.
Rather than getting worn down during the course of a day, we have an opportunity for continuous renewal in all of our activities. Once someone develops an appetite for this aliveness, he or she will never settle for less.

Risa Kaparo earned a Ph.D. in psychology, and maintains a private practice in psychological and somatic therapies in Los Gatos, CA. In addition to leading training programs for educators and health professionals,
Dr. Kaparo participates in Educare, a program exploring new approaches in education in conjunction with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She also is part of an international project, Touch the Future, bringing together educators and child development specialists. She can be reached at (408) 354-3251.
Ellen Wolfe is a Los Angeles free-lance writer.

Rather than getting worn down during the course of a day, we have an opportunity for continuous renewal in all of our activities. Once someone develops an appetite for this aliveness, he or she will never settle for less.

These experiments have been designed by Dr: Kaparo to exercise different forms of intelligence, making it possible to extend our general capacity to live more vitally. They can be practiced independently or as a series in the following sequence. Each awareness experiment contributes to achieving better physiological functioning, structural alignment and integration. And they improve the capacity to participate more fully in any situation.

1. Standing and Pouring.
People generally hold a significant amount of tension that interferes with breathing and digestion, and the ability to stand and move with ease. While simple, this experiment can have profound effect, especially for those with chronic pain in the back, neck, legs or knees.

Start by standing upright with your feet parallel and hip distance apart. Begin to pour forward slowly. The movement is occurring fluidly from the bottom of your feet through the top of your head — not unlike the way liquid moves when poured from a pitcher. Rather than stretching the muscles on the surface, you should lengthen through the bones and tendons. As you bend over, the spine should release, creating no obstruction in the breathing or tightening of the abdomen.

Note: the pelvis or buttocks should remain over the heels, rather than protruding back. Allow the arms to free float, so that they are not straining forward or tensed at the shoulders. Although the legs are extended, the knees should not be locked. If the knees lock, drop the sacrum (the triangular bone at the base of the spine) to release them.

When you come to a comfortable resting place, pause for a moment and feel the movement of your breath like fingers massaging the back from the inside. Exhale without strain, but as fully as possible, from deep in the pelvis. As you inhale, let the air come to you without making any effort.

To come back up, "root" your heels even further into the ground. Imagine that a pulley at the base of the spine is reeling you up without your head or shoulders making the effort to lift. Slowly pour back into vertical position.

Use the weight of your head as a counter balance to extend the space between each vertebrae, one at a time
When you come to a vertical position, you may have a sensation of your body being suspended in space. The exercise can be repeated several times throughout the day to sustain the memory of your structure as fluid and responsive.

When you come into contact with another person, notice what happens. Can you be with the other person without focusing only on them and abandoning your self awareness? Without the strain of a directional focus, you can enjoy a greater capacity for engagement with others.

2. Walking Exercise. As you become more aware of how you walk, your structure becomes more responsive and efficient in its movement. From the standing position taken in the first exercise, begin to shift your weight from one leg to another, without throwing out the hip. Now experiment with walking as though you were moving from your center in the middle of the pelvis. Allow the legs to glide beneath you, rather than exerting effort to move them.

Imagine that you have a ten-pound weight hanging from the base of the spine (the sacrum) so that it releases and lengthens the lower back. Feel what that does. To slow the walking even more, let the leg land empty of your weight. Then receive the support of the ground moving all the way up to the top of the head.

You may vary this exercise from slow-motion to a normal gait. At slower speeds and in safe environments, you may try this with eyes closed as a way to heighten your kinesthetic awareness.

3. Visual Intelligence.
Visual perception is often overlooked m how it influences the physical structure and movement through space, as well as thinking and feeling. The following awareness experiment shows how visual perception either extends or constrains the functioning of other modes of intelligence.

In the standing position, close your eyes and bring your awareness to physical sensations and movements. In a few moments, allow your eyes to open without grasping at any specific object. Simply let your lids open like shutters on a window, and allow the light to pour in. Do this several times. Can you sustain the capacity to sense what you enjoyed with your eyes closed after you open them?

Now start to walk. Relax the eyes as you move, as though you were seeing from the back of your head. Notice the shift from a highly focused mode of using the eyes to an onmi-directional vision that takes in more of the surroundings. Notice how your entire body responds intelligently to what it sees, feels and senses. If you are walking outside, notice your ability to adjust to changes in the terrain through the responsiveness of your entire structure.

4. Listening and speaking. This awareness experiment can be done at the end of this series of exercises with a friend, or at any time during the day when in conversation. As the other person speaks, notice whether you are focusing on the words in a way that constrains your breathing or the openness of` your vision. Feel the ripples of meaning reverberate through the whole of your experience. The extension of your presence allows you to think together with the other person in a shared movement, rather than following the thoughts of others and then judging them in relationship to your own. This opens the possibility for insight.

As you begin to Speak, notice whether your breath supports your words, or whether you sometimes feel as if you are running out of breath. How does the meaning of your words affect you? Are you involved in mechanically reporting information, or are you enlivened and renewed?

When you extend your presence in speaking and listening, you invite the other person into the possibility of becoming co-present, enhancing the depth and quality of communication.

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Coquelicot teaches didactically, experientially and by example. She brings to each session a lifetime's worth of tools, exercises and practices that I use at home to further my own development. Her genius combines intuition, sensing and a comprehensive knowledge of human emotional and biological development. What I've learned from her has not only given me a deeper understanding of my own patterns, dynamics and behaviors, it's also enhanced my understanding of others. I am a far more compassionate person thanks Coquelicot. In fact to the degree that I am a more evolved being in any regard, Coquelicot was instrumental in my transformation.

-L. M. Artist and wellness ally

"Dear God:

Please untie the knots that are in my mind, my heart and my life. Remove the have nots, the can nots and the do nots that I have in my mind. Erase the will nots,
may nots,
might nots that may find a home in my heart.
Release me from the could nots, would nots and should nots that obstruct my life.
And most of all,
Dear God,
I ask that you remove from my mind,
my heart and my life, all of the 'am nots' that I have allowed to hold me back, especially the thought that I am not good enough. Amen."
- Author unknown, The Knots Prayer

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